Tuesday, 27 November 2012


Pouring rain did not hinder leaflet distribution at Barrow railway station on the morning of 1st November.  Photos were taken during all too brief gaps in the heavy showers and members of the public willingly accepted the leaflets that were offered to them.  Some, having read the leaflet, actually thanked the assembled trade unionists for the work of trying to save the rail service before rushing off to board their train taking them to their place of employment.

The dozen or so campaigners who began at 5.45am were joined by others as the morning brightened and the rain eased until, at 8.30 (just thirty minutes before the end of the campaign) a reporter and photographer from the local press arrived and 'interviews' were earnestly conducted.  Three activists of Barrow Trades Union Council (RMT and NUT delegates plus GMB member and Unite Against Fascism organiser) attended throughout but the secretary and chairman were absent.

In an earlier posting I mentioned the failure of the secretary of Barrow Trades Union Council to attend a public meeting to promote the work of the organisation and the refusal of the chairman to speak at the event.  Frankly, I cannot understand this attitude yet it is one that seems to be common to most organisations here in south Cumbria - persons get themselves elected (or appointed) to positions of responsibility and then utterly fail to honour that responsibility.

Take, for example, the secretary of Cumbria Unison, Deborah Hamilton, - responsible, since 2009 for co-ordinating the anti-austerity campaign in the area from Barrow to Kendal - who, except for a very brief appearance at Barrow market entrance one very wet Saturday - has never ever played any part in the campaign.....a campaign organised and sustained for three years by just three pensioners without any assistance from any other organisation.  Churches did not wish to know.  Charities would not assist for fear of being considered 'political' which could threaten their funding status. The Trades Union Council was not interested and the local Labour Party could not support an anti-austerity campaign because, if elected, it would impose an austerity programme of its own!

Appeals to the secretary of Barrow TU Council to promote support for the anti-cuts campaign were steadfastly ignored but, some eighteen months later, following two articles in the local paper in which the secretary appealed for TU delegates to support the local TUC or risk him having to 'wrap it up', the pensioners (each a member of a trade union) decided to assist the Trades Council.  More delegates responded and it seemed that Barrow TUC had been saved from extinction.  There were, however, ominous warning signs.....nobody would accept the position of treasurer.  The chairman elected at that very first meeting never ever made another appearance!  And so the local TUC limped through that year with the secretary doubling up as treasurer also.

The following year (current) saw the election of a chairman, George Appleton (former secretary of the now defunct Ulverston TUC) but still no treasurer - thus the unsatisfactory arrangement of a joint secretary/treasurer is set to continue.

In a previous posting I described the farcical pantomimes of  two Barrow TUC meetings
and do not need to repeat these here.  They arose because of illiteracy and lack of firm leadership and this situation prevails.  As both the chairman and secretary are now both in their 60s it is doubtful that even an intensive remedial course in English would improve their comprehension but they may still have the capacity to understand that they must contribute more if the council is to be saved for the future.

Currently, the secretary and chairman appear to believe that the secretary is merely a clerk and the chairman a conductor - the first handles correspondence and literature once a month and the second manages the agenda much the same way as a conductor manages an orchestra (except the orchestra here is comprised of musicians each playing from a different music sheet with the result that we end up with a discordant racket that nobody wants to listen to!)

Some local people get elected onto the local borough council and then do nothing except attend the occasional borough council meeting.  Fulltime, paid, TU officials rarely leave their offices and will not support local initiatives.  Elected officers of voluntary organisations do not wish to campaign on local issues.  Local politicians remain silent  as people's living standards plummet.  Yes, the message is clear - those who bask in their 'status', who like to mouth off for the local press and maybe get their mugshot published for all to see could not really give a toss about those they claim to represent.  And, of course, it will continue like this until those who put these people into these positions of responsibility decide to bring them to account.   

Friday, 16 November 2012


Cde Greenshields, Chairman CPB
and RMT leaflets at Barrow station.
When it was proposed that an executive member of the Communist Party of Britain could attend a public meeting at Barrow on 31st October I confess I was dubious about the outcome.  

Firstly, it was Hallowe'en and a night when locals would either be escorting their children around the streets begging for sugar-laden confections or attending a fancydress party and 'getting blathered'.  Secondly, the population is - well - disinclined to attend Public Meetings (For example: a recent Police Federation meeting held at Barrow, called to discuss the impact of a much reduced constabulary, attracted just FOUR members of the public....an Ulverston town councillor, the (then) secretary of Ulverston Trades Union Council who was accompanied by his wife, - and me.  

But then I considered it would be an opportunity - not just for a leading Party member to address a local audience - but for local Trade Unionist officials to put the case for two TUC initiatives: promoting activity as a follow-up to the 20th October 'A Future that Works' and generating campaigns supporting the People's Charter.

So, a list of willing TU speakers was drawn up - Craig Johnston, Cumbria relief officer of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union); Ryan Shaw, secretary of Cumbria PCS (Public and Commercial Services union); John Holden, national executive member of the UCU (University and College Union), and Robert Pointer, secretary of B&FTUC (Barrow and Furness Trades Union Council).  Leaflets were distributed around the town, an advertisement was placed in the local paper which resulted in the event appearing in a single columnX3cm 'news snippet'.  The 'Bay' radio station did not respond.  The 'political reporter' for the local paper, was invited to attend.  The Studio Theatre at the local Forum was booked.  Everything was ready, so what could possibly go wrong?

As the evening darkened, the wind increased and we were subjected to a massive and prolonged torrential rain-storm.  News was received that Bill Greenshields, travelling from Derby, was stuck in a traffic jam some forty miles away on the M6 motorway.  The train from Lancaster was running 30 minutes late.  Ryan Shaw (PCS) would be 'late' and there was no communication from Robert Pointer (B&FTUC) explaining why he hadn't shown up.  And twenty people were patiently waiting for the meeting to commence.  After twenty minutes had elapsed I really began to wish I could sing and/or play a musical instrument....or had prepared a 'stand up' comedy routine I could perform...just to fill in the time until our speakers were in place.  Alas, I possess no such skill.  And throughout this, neither Craig Johnston (RMT) nor John Holden (UCU) offered not a single word of complaint.  

At last, running some forty minutes late, the meeting got under way and each speaker delivered much food for thought.  No member of the public attending the event would have been left in any doubt about the seriousness of the political assault that was being mounted against the wellbeing and standard of living of Britain's working class and lower middleclass population and of the pressing need to mount a most determined opposition in political parties, trade unions, and 'pressure groups' such as peace organisations  and social and charity associations.

Was it a successful event?  Knowing my home town as well as I do I can say that, despite the initial setback and wimpish behaviour of the BFTUC secretary (still don't know why he failed to attend) and Stephen Forbes local GMB officer - who said he would attend (and didn't) but would 'leave the speaking to Bob' (Pointer) - then, yes, it was.  And the reporter from the local press failed to materialise.  Maybe there are some fully grown adults in this town who still cling to the belief that if they go out in the rain they will dissolve.  I'm tempted to remark that they are wet enough already........

Craig Johnston (RMT) explained the likely consequences for public rail travellers should the recommendations of the MacNulty report be adopted and announced that the following morning a leaflet campaign would be held outside Barrow's railway station from 5.45 until 9.00am.

Finally, financial contributions by the public almost completely covered the full cost of the room hire.

Now it remains to be seen what results, if any, arise from the meeting.  I won't be holding my breath filled with anticipation. 

Saturday, 10 November 2012


Maybe things are beginning to look up at Barrow TUC thanks to the initiative of Mandy (far right) who organised the minibus to take eleven local people to the TUC demonstration in London on 20th October.

Northern TUC provided £500 towards the £750 cost of bus hire and Barrow TUC coughed up the £250 difference to enable Barrow people to attend the demo free of charge - very helpful for any who were unemployed or on low wages.  This was, for Barrow, a good turnout - and exceeded my expectation by seven.  Even more encouraging was the sight of Barrow TUC secretary, Bob Pointer,(third from right) boarding the bus and giving his most sincere assurance that he would be a speaker at a Public Meeting to be held in Barrow on 31st October:  maybe he was finally becoming vertebral, growing intestines and developing a set of testicles - maybe he was now going to be fit to lead Barrow TUC in the struggles ahead!  And, on top of this, Barrow Association of the NUT (National Union of Teachers) had not only paid the Trades Council delegate fee for the past year but also the fee for the next twelve months!!  Clearly, I had to quickly revise my previous decision to wash my hands of the lot of them (but maintain a healthy scepticism, of course).

Two events are to follow: a Public Meeting, entitled 'Bring Down the Con-Dems: Britain Needs Socialism' and held at the Forum, Barrow on 31st October - this to back up the 20th Oct TUC demo 'A Future that Works' -  followed the next morning by an RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union) leaflet distribution to passengers at Barrow rail station from 5.45am until 9am.  Well, you know the common saying..."You wait for ages for a bus and then..."

The next meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council will be held on Tuesday 6th Nov so there will be plenty to report upon.

And the struggle continues.

Friday, 2 November 2012


Early 21st Century
Late 19th Century

Monday, 10 September 2012


CARLISLE, CUMBRIA, UK, 18th August 2012

Many parts of the world are in turmoil as the people of several nations confront the challenges that are placed before them. 

In South America the struggle to maintain the advances gained through the Bolivarian Revolution and the courageously sustained principled stand by the people of Cuba continue to thwart the undermining efforts of the counter-revolutionaries aided and abetted by the United States.  The 'Arab Spring' held out much hope and promise for the people of North Africa and the Middle East yet has resulted in frustration and disappointment.  In some cases, such as Libya, it created an opportunity for western direct military intervention just as it is now providing chances for covert action to achieve destabilisation and regime change in Syria.  Nato, led by the US continues to prop up puppet regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan whilst US drones inflict a terrible toll on the populations of  Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US ignores the Geneva Convention and the UN Human Rights Convention and maintains the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay.  The US holds Bradley Manning in inhumane conditions for allegedly revealing 'state secrets' - namely, exposing US attrocities in Iraq - and this paranoid, psychopathic nation now seeks to get its hands on Julian Assange.

Meanwhile, Israel, with the backing of the US, Britain and some middle eastern Arab states, is seeking to find an excuse to launch an attack on Iran.  The people of Palestine continue their struggle for freeedom from Israeli occupation.  In Russia, the legitimacy of President Putin's election is being challenged.  In South Africa, over thirty protesting trade union miners were shot dead by police.

In Britain, a repeat of last year's 'London Riots' failed to materialise to the disappointment, one suspects, of the news media. Britain's unelected government, composed of a rich gang assisted by a nest of little helpers, is busy conducting an ideological campaign to dismantle every social gain enjoyed by the people of this country since 1945 namely, the Welfare State and the National Health Service.  This gang and its helpers are merely the servants of the group that is really in charge - the Ruling Class, and it is this class that remains in power whichever political party is elected to parliament.  This assault on the working class has been described as a 'blitzkrieg' but it is more like a Tory 'Operation Barbarossa' as it has been conducted with such speed and on such a wide front.  Unlike the initial Soviet resistence to the Nazi invasion, the response of the British working class is to roll over and hoist the white flag.  As for the battalions of organised workers in the Trade Unions, the response has been to call for a day's outing every six months or so for members to join together to parade through the streets with flags, banners, placards and balloons, blowing colourful plastic horns and shouting fray-edged slogans, flogging badges, tee shirts and handing out leaflets before returning to their coaches for the journey home where they can simply wait for the next outing to be arranged. 

The task before us is immense.  Our attempts to mobilise people to campaign against the arms trade, the succesor Trident submarine building programme, the development of new nuclear weapons, further military interventions, privatisation of the National Health Service, attacks on social services and welfare benefits, rising unemployment, homelessness, the rise of Fascist ideology, attacks on pensioners and the disabled, racism, blacklisting, corruption in banking, the media and the police force, loss of civil liberties, privatisation of the education service, raising the age of retirement, erosion of women's rights and the rights of the lesbian, gay and transgender community are exhausting.  In addition to the above however, we must also seek to build the Party, encourage support for the People's Charter and promote sales of the Morning Star.  We are indeed a tiny spark in a sea of darkness.

"Maybe the answers (to building an anti-monopoly alliance) are still out there." suggests comrade Graham Stevenson, chief organiser of the recent Bishopgate Conference, adding "We will need to find the means to force the Labour Party leadership to be part of the solution, not part of the problem by siding with the class enemy or even adopting its policies wholesale.  We will need to unify all those unions in struggle as well as forge an alliance between organised labour and the mass of the people.

Perhaps we might begin to find our way towards those answers when we ask why trade unionists and trade union councils ignore policies agreed at annual conferences of the Trade Union Congress, why some Communist Party members do not purchase and read a daily copy of the Morning Star or contribute nothing in time, effort or money to their Party branch, why there exists a Communist Party of Britain, a New Communist Party,  a Communist Party of Great Britain, a Revolutionary Communist Group, a Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and a gaggle of other parties purporting to be Communist, Marxist, Socialist, etc.  If we cannot ourselves unite, how can we hope to unite the working class?  This, comrades, is a serious question and deserves a serious answer.

Finally, an indicator of class consciousness from that working class town, Barrow in Furness:
"A lot of people in this town don't think they're working class.  And the rest don't think."

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Ship of Fools, Bosch,  1490/1500
(with apologies to Hieronymous Bosch one of my favourite artists of the medieval period)

This posting will definitely bring to a close my dealings with both Barrow National Union of Teachers and Barrow Trades Union Council for reasons that will become obvious to any who choose to read further.

I realise this may be boring to many but what follows adequately illustrates why there is so little resistence to the Tory/LibDem cuts in this region and, as such, is a vehicle of enlightenment.

At the last meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council on Tuesday 1st May (MAY DAY!) the secretary produced his alternative letter.  Unfortunately, the very first paragraph contained the inappropriate use of a BIG WORD - disenfranchisement.  Read, if you will, this start to his long-winded rambling letter and make sense of it what you can. (I won't test your patience with the rest of it)

British Politics may be considered to be at a critical watershed, due to the effective disenfranchisement of the electorate by the continuing lobby by the vested interests of those who caused the financial debacle in the pusuit of thier own agendas. (Note: I have not corrected the spelling mistake - Muddz)  An attempt was made to draw attention to the misuse of 'disenfranchisement' but a health service delegate retorted she was not here (at BTUC) for 'politics' but to support Barrow Trades Union Council. What a ludicrous statement!!  Attempts to have the wrong word corrected were drowned out by a general hubbub of 'No politics!' that confused the chairman who then moved 'Next item on the agenda' and this brought an end to the din.  By this method, the mobsters of the Labour Party not only successfully ended any criticism of the lack of Labour Party opposition to the cuts but also any fightback that was expected of a party of opposition.  The dead hand of Labour will now dominate Barrow Trades Union Council until such time as a chairman possessing the strength of character to assert his will and insist on discipline at the meetings is found.  This is not currently the case so it is likely that the secretary may soon find himself sitting on his own at BTUC once more.

Following this last meeting, I determined it was high time to leave the asylum and to also abandon Barrow NUT as the delegate fee of £10 remained outstanding - to leave them all to stew in their own juice.  This wisdom of this decision was confirmed when, on the drive homeward, I found myself singing (I only ever dare sing to myself in the car!) :
Well I don't know why I came here tonight,
I got the feeling that something ain't right,
I'm so scared in case I fall off my chair
And I'm wondering how I'll get down the stairs,
Clowns to the left of me,
Jokers to the right, here I am,
Stuck in the middle with you.
Yes I'm stuck in the middle with you,
And I'm wondering what it is I should do
It's so hard to keep this smile on my face,
Losing control, yeah, I'm all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
Stealers Wheel "Stuck inthe Middle With You" from Reservoir Dogs soundtrack

So, with this song and the image of Bosch's 'Ship of Fools' in my head, my mind was made up.  Enough of the stupidity.  Enough of the incompetence, inefficiency and complacency.  I sent out notice to both organisations of termination of my interest in their affairs.  My efforts on behalf of Barrow & Furness Pensioners' Association together with Furness Against the Cuts will also follow suit.  

Look, I enjoy a comfortable pension, the mortgage on our home was completed some years ago and our children have grown up and lead independent, secure and healthy lives of their own - so why am I using my time campaigning on behalf of those who don't even care what happens to themselves let alone anyone else?  What an idiot I have been these last few years - but no more!  Yes, work to promote the Party and those willing to stand up to fight for their class but no more dealings with apathetic dolts and complacent oafs.  No more involvement with the hapless and helpless led by the hopeless.  Goodbye to all that.

Monday, 9 April 2012


I am the son of a Scottish mother and she the daughter of my Irish grandmother so
maybe it is from this source that I get my profound sense of fairness and justice and  propensity for rebellious belligerence?  Can such character traits be inherited?  I have absolutely no idea!

A courageous band of brave patriots took up arms and fought for what they believed in.  Sadly, they could not enlist the support of the majority of the people of Ireland and were put down by the superior military might of the men of the British army whose comrades were dying in their tens of thousands in the mud of Flanders 'For King and Country'.  

Now, if anyone interested in reading this fears they are to be subjected to a potted history of the Irish republican struggle against the rule of British colonialism then relax - far better persons than I, with superior literary ability and greater in-depth knowledge of the historical events of the time to that which I possess, have produced a wealth of informative material on the subject. Every revolutionary situation and struggle for emancipation has its own parables and romanticism in narratives, poetry and song. The Struggles produced a wealth of material that is now available to anyone who is interested - thanks to the wonder of the internet.  

I believe in the right of all nations to enjoy the freedom of self-determination.  British rule over Northern Ireland, just like the royal family, is an anachronism that the people of Britain ought to have abandoned long ago.  (Incidentally, reading Julie Burchill's feature:'Once we had anarchy in the UK.  Now all we have is monarchy in the UK'  Observer newspaper, Review Section, 8th April, made my Sunday!) Am I an English republican nationalist, then?  Only in as much as I hold that the people of my country should be able to decide, by fair democratic means and without interference by any other country or external influence, its economic, social and political direction and development.  

And it was always my wish that my fellow country men and women would choose to adopt and maintain a system that would not permit one person to exploit any other person or persons and that it would be through a sense of pride and honour that individuals would choose a moral code by which we cared for the weak and disadvantaged in our society, one in which we shared equal responsibility and where collaborative endevour for the good of society made competitive greed obsolete.  Altruistic?  Certainly, but I was young in those days.  

Do I still have the belief that men and women can bring about mutually beneficial change in society?  Yes, I do - but only if they possess the political will do so.  However, before they can have the political will to change society for the betterment of all, they must first become politically educated so they are able to chart the correct course and able to consult older charts which show up historically recorded dangers, concealed entrapments and potentially lethal cul-de-sacs.  And they must have strategies to cope with any unexpected storms that drive them from their true course so they are able to swiftly resume their direction.

Do I see any desire on the part of local people to become politically educated?  No, I do not.  If, in the 1990s they were 'reluctant' and in the 2000s they were 'resistent', then here in the 2010s they are positively antagonistic - many, seemingly, 'do not wish to know'. As for those workers who profess to have a reason for voting the way that they do I've heard the lot - including "If the Tories were good enough for my father, then they're good enough for me!" and "The worst that Labour does is better than anything the Tories do."  And then, of course, we meet that Ship of Fools otherwise known as Barrow Trades Union Council which, it is said, suffers severe constipation - not for many years has a motion of any substance been passed. 

So what of the republican aim of a united Ireland?  The economic runaway boom time period of the Celtic Tiger was always a bubble waiting to burst, for such development was unsustainable.  I cannot see how having already endured four years of crippling austerity measures, the emigration of almost one million of its inhabitants in the past twelve months alone and yet worse austerity measures in the pipeline will assist Irish Republicanism unless Republicans, leftwing political organisations and progressive workers join together to present a united front against the European Union and the remnants of British colonial rule in the six counties of the north.     

Friday, 6 April 2012


At the 7th February meeting of Barrow Trades Union Council delegates expressed their concern about the affects of government imposed cuts upon the people of this area - rising youth unemployment, increasing waiting lists for social housing, reductions in benefits and allowances, the fear of new 'assessments' of the disabled and their 'fitness for work', and the political vacuum caused by a lack of Labour Party opposition to these measures both locally and nationally which creates a breeding ground for far right organisations such as the BNP and EDL.  Delegates agreed a letter expressing these concerns be written and sent to the local press for publication.  Then progress of business hit the buffers -  who would write the letter?  

The secretary, Robert Pointer, stated he was too busy to do so.  The acting chairperson (Barrow TUC elected a chairman last summer who then went absent and has never been seen or heard from since that time) asked for a volunteer but no one indicated they wished to take on the task.  The acting chairperson then directly asked the NUT delegate (who had initiated the discussion) if he was prepared to compose a letter and send it to the secretary and the delegate agreed to do so in readiness for the next TU council meeting.

Below is a copy of the letter that was presented for discussion/amendment/approval at the meeting held on 6th March.....

The Labour Party is considered to be the 'Party of Opposition' in parliament yet delegates to this Trades Council see little evidence of any determined opposition, either locally or nationally, to the austerity measures being imposed by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government. 
William Keegan, financial correspondent, wrote in the Observer (Sunday 29 January 2012)
'...while Labour leaders are right to avoid making too many commitments at this stage, statements about not reversing cuts they have opposed make people wonder why they should vote Labour at all.'
Labour's acceptance of capitalism and monetarism make it no different to either the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats.  Thus people who must work for a wage or a salary feel there is at present no political party capable of being elected to parliament that will serve their best interests and this has created a political vaccuum.
This Trades Council is concerned that this vacuum will be readily exploited by opportunist fascist, far right organisations, as they have done in the past, leading to a dramatic increase in hate crimes against minorities as the economic situation worsens and so calls upon the membership of the Labour Party to look seriously at the Alternative Strategy of the Trade Union Congress and also the People's Charter that was fully endorsed at the TUC's November 2009 conference.
Whole sections of the British population - workers, unemployed, disabled, sick and elderly, and those who can no longer afford to continue educational studies are crying out for change. Locally, the number of children suffering poverty is escalating and the level of youth unemployment is much higher than the national average.  It really is time for the Labour Party to listen carefull to the people by whom it was founded and for whom it was originally founded to represent.

A Unite delegate (and former Labour councillor)  immediately objected to the letter declaring he knew nothing about it  and it should not be put to the vote as it has just been pushed forward.  He was not present at the February meeting when the matters contained in the letter were discussed and this was why he knew nothing about it.  The NUT delegate proposed the secretary send copies of the letter to all delegates so they may prepare and submit any amendments at the April meeting, and this was agreed.

 Usually, these meetings are gatherings at which a few - perhaps five or seven - (mainly retired) persons sit and listen to the secretary read out correspondence, maybe have a chat about things arising from the correspondence, and then go home and wait for the next meeting when they can turn up and go through exactly the same procedure.  It was only last year the secretary declared in the local press that if people didn't start to support the Trades Union Council he would have to wrap it up as sometimes he was left sitting on his own.  Why did people stop attending?  Did they maybe find the boredom and lack of activity suffocating?  Three new delegates, one from the NUT, one from Unison (and secretary of Barrow Pensioners' Association) and another, GMB (and regional representative of Unite Against Fascism) could breathe some life into the council because each considered the council to be important and did not want to see it fold.  Since last year attendance by most delegates has been sporadic but that of the secretary and the GMB, RMT and NUT delegates has been regular and consistent.

Well, proceedings commenced at a leisurely pace.  George Appleton, secretary of the now defunct Ulverston Trades Union Council, agreed to be acting chairperson until the resignation of the former chairperson could be obtained.  Correspondence was read and discussed sedately in the usual manner.  The small protest by Remploy workers was noted.  The proposed construction of a new biomass power generating station was discussed and it was noted a local unofficial group was holding a protest meeting at Roose school at 7pm on the evening of Friday 6th April.  Then THE LETTER came up for discussion.

The Unite delegate objected to the letter and declared he would not vote for it.  The NUT delegate explained a vote was not being asked for at this time as this was only a draft and open to amendment.  The Unite delegate said he didn't want any of it.  One delegate (Unison, health section) said she agreed with most of the letter but had to leave for another engagement.  The RMT delegate agreed with most of it but not some of it but did not specify.  The GMB delegate agreed with some parts but not other parts but gave no details.  The NUT delegate asked for any amendments to be recorded.  The chairperson asked for amendments but none were proposed.  

The NUT delegate asked the chairperson if the letter could be considered paragraph by paragraph and amendments noted and he agreed.  The Unite delegate again declared he would not vote for it. Another Labour Party member and delegate (attending for the first time in many months) asked if the letter could be sent to local Labour MP John Woodcock for his comments but this was rejected.  It was then proposed that the MP be invited to attend the next Trades Council meeting to discuss the letter and this was also rejected.  Delegates made it impossible for the chairperson to tackle the letter section by section and, as it was clear no progress would be made, the NUT delegate proposed the letter be withdrawn and this was agreed.  

Even if nothing came out of this episode at least the discussion was heated in parts and the delegates became animated.  The main problem was that delegates had not bothered to read the letter and to make changes to it.  Neither did they possess the wit nor the wisdom to make amendments when the letter came up for their attention at the meeting.

So what conclusions can be drawn by this pantomime?  One could be that although the state of the local Masonic Lodge is unknown, it is clear the local branch of the Moronic Lodge is doing very nicely.

The situation at the moment is this:  attendance at TU council meetings varies between four and eight persons.  On one occasion it went as high as ten.  Attendance by most delegates however, is inconsistent and this makes continuity difficult.  The council may soon have a reliable chairperson but it still has no elected treasurer.  Some delegates need to pester their union branch to ensure their delegate fees are fully paid up otherwise, as demonstrated at the last meeting, their presence has no legitimacy.

More fun and games next month, perhaps, especially as it was just the letter that was withdrawn - not the decision that a letter be sent to the local press on the issues that had been raised at the February meeting.  The NUT delegate has proposed (by email) that the secretary of Barrow TU council prepare one and send it to all members in readiness for amendments or approval by delegates at the council meeting in May.    

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Announcement of first TUC Congress 1868
The first Trades Union Congress was held in the Mechanics' Institute, David Street, Manchester, from 2nd until 6th June 1868.

Amongst other things, the Congress passed a resolution "that it is highly desirable that the trades of the United Kingdom should hold an annual congress for the purpose of bringing the trades into closer alliance and to take action in all Parliamentary matters pertaining to the general interests of the working classes."

There then followed a period in which the TUC's efforts were directed - with occasional and limited success - towards influencing successive governments' to protect the trade unions as societies and to protect the worker as an individual human being.

"Notwithstanding all the teachings of political economists, all the doctrines taught by way of supply and demand, we say there is a greater doctrine overriding all those and that is the doctrine of humanity."  Sam Woods, secretary of the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC (1894 - 1904)

Of course, in the affairs of mice and men (and women) things are never simple and straightforward.  Keir Hardy, stalwart advocate of a truly independent Labour Party, correctly accused the TUC of having tepid policies and a flaccid leadership. (Not much change there, then. Muddz) Later, in 1895, the TUC excluded from Congress all local trades councils - which had previously always been there as of right - because, according to the TUC leadership, this duplicated membership.  However, many believed the real reason to be because the TUC leadership felt the trades councils were an awkwardly militant element. (A similar attempt by the TUC to exclude trades councils was made in the 1980s but defeated. Muddz)

In the first thirty years or so after its foundation, the TUC had just two major successes: the Repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the introductionof the Fair Wages Clause.

In 1888, following the successful strike by a few hundred Bryant and May match girls, a resolution was moved in Congress by Miss Black of London: "That in the opinion of this Congress it is desirable, in the interests of both men and women, that in trades where women do the same work as men, they shall receive the same payment."  And then, just a few days after the Gas Workers, led by Will Thorne, had confronted the gas companies with a demand for an eight-hour day and won, came the great dockers' strike of 1889.

The dispute began when a few labourers at the West India Dock went on strike.  Ben Tillett, secretary of the Tea Workers and General Labourers' Union and strikers' leader immediately received offers of assistance from two stalwarts: John Burns and Tom Mann.  The business of the Port of London was brought to a complete standstill and the strike went from strength to strength.  Union funds, however, were rapidly depleted. Just when an ignominious end to the strike seemed inevitable, money from Australia began to pour into the coffers of the striking dockers.  This money came from almost every Australian trade union, the warf labourers of Brisbane, and from Australian football clubs.  Ultimately, the dockers obtained the major part of what they wanted and this victory lifted the hearts of other dockers and workers in other fields - gas workers, railwayworkers, textile workers, building workers, shipbuilding and metal workers, miners and boot and shoe operatives who rallied to their own unions in response to the story of the "dockers' tanner."
(You can read about how British miners in their determined and courageous struggle against the ranged forces of the the Tory government, The State, the capitalist media, scab labour, coppers' narks, class traitors, personal back-stabbers, turncoats and a pious Labour Party under the wet leadership of Kinnock, held out for a full year (1984 - 5) and exposed the sham of so-called 'British democracy' in the book The Enemy Within by Seumas Milne.  But be careful of your blood pressure if you do so. Muddz.) 

Britain in the early part of the 19th century was firmly in the grip of the 'Landed Gentry' and the aristocracy - much to the great frustration of the rising industrial bourgeoisie who, although possessing economic power were locked out of any political power and control of the State and the only way forward for them was to bring about revolutionary change.  Imagine that - a bourgeious (capitalist class) revolution!  They needed to achieve representation in Parliament so they could carry through legislation in their own interests.  But they could not achieve this on their own - they needed assistance, and they obtained this assistance by extending the franchise (democracy) to the working class.  However, James Mill, whilst prepared to enlist the support of the working class to defeat aristocratic political power, was determined that the business of government remained firmly in the hands of the rich.  Universal education of the masses would teach the lower orders to respect the 'property of their betters'.  Hard-fought battles resulted in one million people being added to the electoral role in 1867 and, for the very first time, working class voters found themselves in the majority in some constituencies.  Capitalist social ownership concentrated power and wealth in the hands of the few and any further extension of democracy threatened this 'ownership' - it might lead "to the transfer of power from the hands of property and intelligence."  

There is not room here to go to any detail about the struggles and effort that were put into the formation of a political party to represent the interests of 'the lower orders' ie the Labour Party, but I cannot close this post without  two last pieces that I believe are of particular relevance in Britain today.

Here is Walter Bagehot, political theorist of the bourgeousie "...in all cases it must be remembered that a political combinationof the lower classes, as such and for their own objects, is an evil of the first magnitude; that a permanent combination of them would make them (now that so many of them have the suffrage) supreme in the country.  So long as they are not taught to act together, there is a chance of this being averted, and it can only be averted by the greatest foresight of the higher classes."  Engels remarked that with the passing of the 1867 Reform Act, the ruling class had learnt how to rule directly by means of universal suffrage.  That is, the people had the vote but economic and political power remained firmly in the hands of the ruling class.  (We are now in the year 2012 - has anything changed? Muddz.)  

And finally (honestly!) The new mass party system was moulded into the older established constitutional state system with its emphasis on the supremacy of the Parliamentary Party dominated by the parliamentary leaders.  The Parties were simply vote-catchers, their role was to serve and support the Party in Parliament.  At the beginning of the 20th century, A. L. Lowell made his now famous statement, that both parties (Conservative and Liberal) were shams: the Conservative party a transparent sham, and the Liberal an opaque sham.  And Lord Balfour saw as the outstanding genius and achievement of the British political system that the alternating Tory and Liberal Cabinets, fully supportive of the capitalist foundations of society, could safely afford to bicker.  Whatever the measures of democratic rights won, the capitalist social system remained supreme and, to all intents and purposes, unchallenged.  Bourgeois political power had mastered universal suffrage.  And what of the Labour Party?  The fundamental reason for a party of the working class is the conquest of political power and the introduction of socialism.  However, the new Labour Party had no socialist objective or programme - its sole aim was to break with the old Liberal leaders and win independent working class representation in Parliament but without being politically independent of the bourgeoisie - the seeds of class collaboration had been sown.  Indeed, it has been with the aid of the Labour Party leadership that the capitalist class has succeeded in maintaining its rule in periods of serious social crisis.  Does this ring any bells today?

So, now we have the Conservative Party, a transparent sham; the Liberal Party, an opaque sham, and the Labour Party, a semi-transparent semi-opaque sham!  That's progress?


Saturday, 18 February 2012


All that any leftwing activist needs to know about the history of the class struggle in Britain, be they a member of a trade union or not, is contained within the book shown opposite but few will have seen it and even fewer will even know of its existence.

I am fully aware the above could invite criticism - "What about the revolt of slaves in Roman times....ever heard of Spartacus?" "Remember Wat Tyler and the peasants' revolt?" "The Craft Guilds of medieval times?" "How about the Diggers, the Levellers, Cromwell, Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, and don't forget the French Revolution!" "And what of the Pugachev rebellion and the peasant uprisings in Russia?"  

Well, these occurred before 1868 and seriously, this isn't a concise history of workers' struggle for  emancipation: it is just a simple blog on parts of the history of the TUC and how this history contains lessons for those conducting the class struggle in Britain today.  It is also a commentary on the role of the Labour Party in working people's attempts to obtain true parliamentary representation that would serve their interests as a class.

The Social Science Association was a middle-class body that claimed to have a sympathetic interest in trade unionism.  However, when William Dronfield, secretary of the Sheffield Typographical Society attempted to defend trade unions following a savage attack on them by a previous speaker at a Congress of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, there was not a single mention of this in the Association's report.  Dronfield gave word of this to two fellow compositors, Samuel Caldwell Nicholson, President of the Manchester and Salford Trades Council, and William Henry Wood, secretary of the trades council, and questioned the point of trade unionists going to these congresses of supposedly 'progressive' middle-class organisations if the views of working men were to be suppressed.  Nicholson's response was to ask "Why not have a congress of our own?"  Later, on February 21st 1868, Nicholson and Wood sent out the first summons to the first Trades Union Congress to be held on 4th May that same year.  It should be noted that Manchester and Salford Trades Council took the initiative and that  the congress would be of Representatives of Trades Councils and other Federations of Trades Societies.  The Trades Union Congress of today owes its existence to the work of the Trades Councils of 1868 -  a fact that ought never to be forgotten by the trade union movement of today.

The history of British working people's struggles for better pay and conditions by means of Trade Unionism and through politics is something of which we should be proud.  British workers have engaged the class enemy at home and fought foreign enemies abroad. Yet the battle at home continues and will continue until capitalism has been thoroughly defeated and replaced by socialism.